Williams men, women set to open NESCAC hockey tournament


WILLIAMSTOWN -- Lansing Chapman Rink may not be the center of the hockey universe this weekend, but it will be close. That’s because the Williams College men and women will open their NESCAC Tournament play on Saturday.

The Ephs will host a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon. The women, who earned a No. 3 seed, will host No. 6 Trinity in the 1 p.m. opener. The Williams men also earned a No. 3 seed, and will host sixth-seeded Colby at 4 p.m.

"We’re both happy to be home," men’s coach Bill Kangas said. "We’re in a very competitive league ... and probably one of the best in the country. Eight strong teams are in it."

Tickets are $3 for adults and $1 for students, and are good for both games.

"They set it as a goal at the start of the season," said Williams women’s coach Meghan Gillis, "to be able to host a home game. They were very excited when that came to fruition."

Williams (12-9-3, 9-4-3) hasn’t hosted a home game in a NESCAC tourney since 2010, when the Ephs were beaten at home by Bowdoin.

Gillis’ team earned its highest seed since 2006, when Williams was No. 3. That year, the Ephs advanced to the NESCAC semifinals. Williams hasn’t been that close since.

Gillis said that it’s nice to be back at home, but it really is more about the upcoming opponent than the history.

"It’s just focusing on the present that works out the best," she said. "Obviously, I’m really happy for the program. It’s always fun to play in your own barn.

"It shows how hard the team has worked all season."

The Bantams (10-7-7, 5-6-5) lost twice to Williams in Hartford, Conn. Trinity has been on quite the roller coaster as of late. After losing twice to Williams, the Bantams won six straight before finishing up 0-2-4.

"There’s so much parity in our league, I think every game that’s being played this weekend is going to be a battle," said Gillis. "It’ll be our first time playing them at home. I think relying on good team defense, starting with the goaltender, and working our way out."

Junior Chloe Billadeau will get the start between the pipes for the Ephs. Gillis said she’s been the hot goalie and she’s a veteran.

The men (14-7-3, 10-5-3) also earned a No. 3 seed, and will host sixth-seeded Colby (11-10-3, 8-9-1).

"You can’t look at who you play because everybody’s good," said Kangas.

The Ephs will face a Colby squad that took three out of four possible points from the Ephs. Williams and Colby battled to a 1-1 draw in the season opener, and lost a 2-1 decision on Jan. 24.

Williams comes into the game having won only one of its last six games, going 1-4-1 since beating Tufts on Feb. 1.

"Like Coach [Bill] Belichick says, we are what we are. I thought there was a stretch where I think the guys wish they had back," said Kangas. "There were also a couple of games where we played really well but didn’t get the win.

"We played well at Trinity. We lost 2-1, but I thought we played well. It’s a good motivation for us. We know we have some really good games in us."

The Mules have two big scorers in seniors Ben Chwick (16 goals) and Nick Lanza (15 goals). The Ephs are led by junior Craig Kitto (11 goals) and freshman George Hunkele (9 goals). Williams has scored only 10 goals in its last six games.

"We’re a team that relies on everybody. Everybody has to contribute," said Kangas. "When all four lines are going and all six ‘D’ and the goalie are all playing well and doing our jobs, we’re a pretty good team."


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